Virginia lawmakers at a standstill over redistricting

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Back in June, a federal court ruled that Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District had been illegally packed with black voters to make surrounding districts safer for Republican incumbents. While lawmakers were called back to redraw that district, Democrats and the Governor called for all of Virginia’s districts to be redrawn.

“I want to see from them a map that is regionally balanced, that is fair and competitive,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

But Republicans made it clear the 3rd District was the only one they would work on.

“That’s what the court order said for us to do and that’s exactly what we should do,” said Del. John O’Bannon (R-Henrico County).

“Voting is a responsibility I do not take for granted,” said voter Geneva Perry.

Perry who came to Richmond to speak in support of diversifying Virginia’s electoral map lives in a neighboring district and says packing black voters into the 3rd District has diminished the voice of minority voters across the state. Perry says she wants more balanced lines.

“Giving every voter an equal and powerful voice in our Democracy,” said Perry.

While public hearings had been scheduled by the House as they worked on a new map, the Senate adjourned, essentially ending the redistricting process for now.

Lawmakers have until September 1 to come up with new congressional lines. If lawmakers and the governor cannot come to a compromise, federal judges could impose their own boundaries as they have done in other states.

On Monday evening, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover), House Republican Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) and Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) issued the following statement:

“Senate Democrats’ unconstitutional attempt to adjourn sine die directly defies a federal court ruling, ignores repeated requests from Governor Terry McAuliffe and singly-handedly eliminates any possibility of a legislative remedy on redistricting. “As Governor McAuliffe repeatedly said, the General Assembly is under a court ruling to redraw Virginia’s Third Congressional District by September 1st. The Governor called this special session of the General Assembly specifically for the purpose of redistricting. The House of Delegates acted in good faith and announced five days ago committee meetings and public hearings in order to develop a remedy to comply with the Court ruling. In fact, Senate Democrats took this unconstitutional action almost exactly as the House of Delegates began a public hearing to solicit citizen input on redistricting.

“Not only is this attempt to adjourn blatantly hypocritical and deeply irresponsible, it also directly defies both a federal court ruling and the Governor. Democrats have single-handedly shutdown any possibility of a legislative remedy on redistricting and have no one to blame but themselves. “The House of Delegates remains in session, pursuant to Article IV, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia. Unfortunately, without the presence of the Senate, there is no possible path forward on redistricting.”

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